Ready for BBQ season? Read this first...
It’s no coincidence AGEs stands for Advanced Glycation End Products.
These compounds accelerate aging in the body and can increase your risk for chronic disease, wrinkles, skin sagging, inflammation, and metabolic chaos, to name but a few.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are harmful compounds that are formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream.
This basically means sugar is binding to protein and lipids in the body which creates mitochondrial damage, our mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell responsible for energy production in the body. AGEs have also been shown to cause damage to DNA and enzymes.
This isn’t good.
AGEs form inside of the body when proteins or fats combine with sugar (increased with refined sugar consumption or with diabetic patients) but also from cooking foods at high temperatures such as grilling, frying or toasting. Sugary, processed, and packaged foods are also high in AGEs.
A diet containing high protein and high fat has higher amounts of AGEs in comparison to a carbohydrate-rich diet.
The body is designed to get rid of these harmful compounds however, when they accumulate excessively and the body can’t keep up, we encounter a problem. And in today’s society, AGEs are increasingly common in the Standard North American diet.
AGE consumption through the diet shows elevated serum levels on blood tests which have been linked with inflammatory markers such as CRP, increased risk for insulin resistance and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
What does this mean for human health? Premature aging, fatigue, and damaged proteins that can create havoc in the body resulting in a higher risk of developing conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, kidney failure, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and skin damage. The whole body is affected by AGEs and can cause damage to every tissue and organ.
Research has correlated AGEs to almost all chronic disease epidemics in our society today such as:
Type II diabetes
High blood pressure
Hyperlipidemia (high TGs in the blood)
AGEs and PCOS
Direct contribution of AGEs to the PCOS condition still needs to be determined however studies do show a correlation that AGEs do worsen the inflammatory state in PCOS women.
This makes sense as PCOS creates a low grade inflammatory state in the body and AGEs promote inflammatory markers. In addition, studies have shown that women with PCOS accumulate higher levels of AGEs than women without and have been linked to higher AMH levels in the blood, anovulation, and insulin resistance.
AGEs have been documented to act as key agents in ovarian function as they may alter oocyte growth and development and chromosomal composition in the ovaries. And for those struggling with insulin resistance, common in PCOS, AGEs have been shown to interfere with insulin signalling and glucose transport into the cell.
All in all, the evidence supports the claim that AGEs may worsen PCOS phenotypes and symptoms which is why they should be avoided as much as possible especially in inflammatory conditions like PCOS.
What can you do?
So we know that AGEs are detrimental to our health so what can you do about it? I don’t expect you to avoid all barbecues or AGE foods for the rest of your life. But there are things you can do to minimize your exposure and the damage made when you do eat these foods or use cooking methods that promote AGE formation.
First be mindful of the foods that are high in AGES, what cooking methods promote AGEs and what foods you can add to reduce AGE formation.
Foods high in AGES
Foods cooked with dry high heat
Foods low in AGES
Tips to avoid exposure and damage from AGEs
Avoid sugars especially during cooking. This means not using sauces when cooking meat on the bbq. Instead add the sauce after or better yet use a marinade with acidic ingredients like lemon or apple cider vinegar which can significantly reduce the amount of AGEs produced.
Eat vegetables and fruits raw, boiled, or steamed. This will help reduce AGE formation and keep nutrients intact that are needed to quench free radicals and lower inflammation in the body. Cooking at lower temperatures for longer periods will help keep AGE levels lower. Slow cookers are one of the best options!
Limit your consumption of processed and browned foods. These have higher amounts of AGEs which means more inflammation and oxidative damage. So avoid the overcooked foods and make 80% of your diet whole food based.
Avoid dry high heat cooking methods like grilling, frying, toasting, and opt for stewing, poaching, boiling and steaming instead.
Cook with coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter (no olive oil) which have higher smoke points thus reducing the risk of oxidation. Use oils like flax or olive oil after cooking such as on cooked vegetables or on raw salads.
Cook with herbs like rosemary, turmeric, thyme which have protective plant compounds and phenols that can reduce the negative health effects of AGEs.
Load up on antioxidants! These combat free radicals , reduce oxidative stress and hinder AGE formation. If you are eating at a bbq take extra vitamin C and ensure you are filling up on brightly coloured fruits and veggies!
Photos by Dylan Cutler